“Shock and Awe” Could Lead to War Crimes Prosecutions Against US Say International Human Rights Lawyers – Press Release – PDF

2003 Shock and Awe Could Lead to War Crimes Prosecutions Against US

Pentagon Official Warns of “Hiroshima” Effect International Criminal Court Jurisdiction Can be Invoked For Attacks Launched from British Base in Diego Garcia

U.S. officials involved in military operations against Iraq could be liable for war crimes prosecution for the planned massive military attack, “shock and awe” lawyers associated with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) said today. “Donald Rumsfeld has stated that the attack on Iraq will ‘…be of a…scope and scale beyond what anyone has been seen before’,” said CCR President, Michael Ratner. “If that is the case, and the U.S. is planning to employ a force beyond that used in Dresden or Hiroshima, for example, then Secretary Rumsfeld is predicting the commission of war crimes. In that case, the U.S. could, and should, be prosecuted,” Ratner added.

Generally, Americans carrying out war crimes may be able to do so without fear of prosecution before the International Criminal Court (ICC) because one of the preconditions to the Court exercising jurisdiction is that the individual concerned be a national of a state that is a Party to the ICC. However, the Court also has jurisdiction over crimes carried out on the territory of a State which is a Party, or onboard a ship or aircraft of a State which is a Party.

A Senior Pentagon official has stated publicly: “There will not be a safe place in Baghdad… you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapon at Hiroshima, not in days or weeks but in minutes.” The purpose is to “take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In two, three, four, five days, they are physically, emotionally, and psychologically exhausted.” In a press statement yesterday, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld obviously referring to “shock and awe” said that Wednesday night’s attack would be followed by a military campaign “of a force and scope and scale that will be beyond” anything seen before.

It has been widely reported that U.S. U2 Bombers to be involved in the “shock and awe” strategy are based at the U.S. Air Base on Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean and will be loaded with cruise missiles there for use against Iraq. Diego Garcia is UK territory, which it leases to the U.S. As the UK is a Party to the ICC, crimes under the statute, including war crimes, committed wholly or in part on Diego Garcia fall within the Court’s jurisdiction.

“Shock and awe” forms an integral part of the official U.S. war plan for the invasion of Iraq. The strategy calls for the launching of 3,000 precision-guided bombs in the first 48 hours of war at Baghdad, a densely populated city of 5.6 million. In Afghanistan, these weapons had a maximum success rate of 85%, indicating that at least 200 missiles will miss their targets daily resulting in the indiscriminate deaths of countless numbers of innocent civilians.

If initiated, this strategy will almost certainly result in the commission of war crimes, primarily through its impact on civilians and the civilian infrastructure such as water, electrical power and hospitals. According to CCR Legal Director, Jeffrey Fogel, “The laws of war prohibit civilians being targeted and there is a fundamental rule that Parties to the conflict must distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives. Parties must restrict their operations to the targeting of military objectives. The proposed U.S. “shock and awe” strategy fails on all counts and as such constitutes a war crime under Article 8 of the Rome Statute.”